August 23, 2011

OF COURSE, WITH LONGSTREET IN CHARGE THEY'D HAVE WON THE WAR:

How Did Robert E. Lee Become an American Icon? (James C. Cobb, July/August 2011, Humanities)

Needless to say, the story of how anyone becomes a heroic role model to a nation that he has made war upon is likely to be a bit complicated, but in this case it is well worth telling simply for what it says about the extraordinary elasticity of historical symbols when they can be bent to the aims of a cohesive, purposeful set of interests in the present.

Postbellum white southerners borrowed the term "Lost Cause" from Sir Walter Scott's romantic depiction of the failed struggle for Scottish independence in 1746. For them, however, memorializing their recent and bitter defeat at the hands of the Yankees was no mere flight into escapist fantasy. Rather, it was part of a willful strategy, aimed at both restoring white supremacy in the South and regaining the economic and political power needed to insulate white southerners from any future northern interference in their racial affairs. If this could be achieved, insisted Lost Cause advocate Edward A. Pollard, the South might yet triumph "in the true cause of the war, with respect to all its fundamental and vital issues."


And the only issue that mattered was the subordination of blacks.


Posted by at August 23, 2011 5:23 AM
  

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